In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with home cook and social media personality Dan Pelosi. At the start of the pandemic, Pelosi began sharing family recipes on his Instagram page, @GrossyPelosi. He has since fostered an online community that connects over a mutual love of food.
The two discuss food shaming on social media, how to grow a platform, and how Pelosi turned sharing his family’s secret recipes into a full-time job. Tune in for more.
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Jake Cornell: It’s funny, because I get so many people I’ve been interviewing and talking to — and also just people I know — are in the food media world. And I just feel like you all went through the Thanksgiving gauntlet.
Dan Pelosi: Totally, and I’m coming out of it slowly.
J: By the time you get to Thanksgiving Day are you like, “I don’t want to f*cking deal with this anymore?”
D: Absolutely, I am in a coffin. And I do it all. I do my entire family Thanksgiving.
J: Your persona as the family cook seems very authentic, so I would imagine you are the one that’s doing all.
D: It’s not drag, although it seems like drag, it’s not drag.
J: I wouldn’t say it seems like drag. It seems genuinely authentic. I would not say it seems like drag.
D: Sometimes when I’m running around in a housecoat, that’s drag, but also authentic drag. Hopefully drag is coming from a place of authenticity, no matter who you are or what you’re wearing.
J: Good drag is.
D: Last year, Thanksgiving was just me and my two roommates in our apartment. I had made a ton of Thanksgiving recipes and shot them, and did a Thanksgiving outdoors in October, too. I’ve turned into a do-your-holidays-ahead-of-time kind of person so I could have it all ready to go. This year was two years since I went to Connecticut. This time I brought a boyfriend with me, which was the first time ever that I’ve done that.
J: That’s exciting.
D: It was really, really fun. It was overly emotional. My family, just everyone, went all out and we all were in tears multiple times. It was really great.
J: Not to say post-Covid, but that’s the first Covid back together holiday, and you’re introducing the boyfriend. That’s an emotional pressure cooker, thoroughly.
D: It totally was. It wasn’t just me and my boyfriend, everyone came. Two years ago on Halloween, my uncle passed away really unexpectedly, and it was sort of heartbreaking. So my aunt showed up with pillows that she made from my uncle’s shirts that were for everyone in the family. And then my little nephew was like, “Does it still smell like him?” We’re all just like, “Awww.”
J: And you’ve been working 70-hour weeks getting ready for the holiday.
D: I was getting grease on it. Also I take this portrait of my grandfather, who’s now 99, every year. We’re Italian, he’s the first person at the table. He’s sitting there, he’s ready. When I was 13, my parents let me redecorate the whole house and I went off in our dining room and it looked very Norman Rockwell. So I take this photo of my grandfather every year, and it’s become a thing. One of my — I hate saying the word followers — but one of these amazing people who follows me did a watercolor painting of it over the past two years. I, of course, had to do the family stone moment where I had it reproduced and made eight of them. And in the middle of dinner, I handed out the photo and everyone unwrapped it.
J: Sometimes being gay really pays off. The drama of it is just unbelievable.
D: I was coming in really f*cking hard. I was like, “Gus, video this entire thing.” We were doing run-throughs at my apartment. I’m starting at the left side of the table, and so if you can just do a pan and then zoom in.
J: I’m obsessed.
D: Luckily, my boyfriend went to drama school. What better match for me? Another performative queen.
J: That’s a true union.
D: Oh my God, it’s incredible, and actually bless him. Because I’m the most and he is so game for it. It’s amazing. Can I tell you this story? I did a project with Whole Foods, and it was about the fall drop at Whole Foods. I was like, I’m going to sell pumpkin spice. My concept was just pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. So I wore an orange shirt and green shorts and a green hat. I was like, am I dressed like a pumpkin? Yes. I sort of reference that in the video. Luckily Gus, who’s my boyfriend, works nearby at the CrossFit gym. I was like, “Can you just meet me and film this?” So I get to Whole Foods on Oct. 1, and none of the pumpkin sh*t is out yet. I’m having a moment, I’m in Whole Foods and I call my manager, and I’m like, “I’m in the middle of Whole Foods and I’m dressed like a pumpkin!” Gus and I met on Hinge, because we both wrote that “The Comeback” is our number one show in the entire world.
J: And now you’re Valerie Cherish in Whole Foods.
D: And now I’m Valerie Cherish in Whole Foods, on the phone with my manager saying, “And I was dressed like a pumpkin.” Gus was like, “Oh my God, this is incredible.” Wow, truly, I have reached my peak.
J: I get it. When you’re a one-person production machine, it is so unbelievable how much work it is.
D: Can we hold hands and cry right now? Literally, it is insane. As you gain more attention and more followers, people tend to think that you’ve got people holding you up every morning. Not really, it’s still me. I have some support in different areas, but it’s exhausting. And I’m facing 40, everything hurts.
J: Obviously, over the past few years, you have been an at-home cook queen. We’ve seen it all. But was that your vibe pre-pandemic as well?
D: It was my vibe, but with no audience. I love that this is about going out, because I haven’t left the house since my early 20s. I grew up in the kitchen. I went from the countertop, to a stool, to the floor. I helped my mother and grandparents in the kitchen growing up with my grandparents.
J: Where in the sibling line do you fall?
D: Youngest, obviously.
J: OK, that tracks. Cool.
D: Absolutely the youngest. I was just always giving food on Instagram on the weekends. And then as soon as the pandemic hit, I had a full-time job as a creative director. I was 15 years into this career, and I was doing a whole thing in the retail world. As soon as I started working from home, I was like, “I get to cook every meal? This is incredible.” So I would just photograph frying an egg. My stories were like short films. So really, I went from like 5,000 followers to where I’m at now 18 months later, which is amazing. I just grabbed this audience of people who were like, “I’m stuck at home and you know how to be at home, and I don’t.”.
J: Oh, that’s so interesting.
D: I joke, but we grew up in lockdown. I’m Italian-American and Portuguese-American. We talked about food, we made food, we talked about the next meal. Our houses were really comfortable. I never was the kid who was like, “I want to get out of the house.” One of my best friends did Outward Bound in high school, she went into the rainforest for eight weeks. And I was like, I’m doing inward bound. My summer will be spent in air-conditioning, making refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails.
J: Totally. Are you mainland Portuguese or Azorean Portuguese?
J: I’m from Rhode Island, and there is a huge Azorean population there. You know the aunts you have that aren’t genetically your aunts? One of mine is 100 percent Azorian.
D: Where in Rhode Island?
J: I’m from Cranston.
D: Oh my God, shut up.
J: No. What’s your connection to Providence?
D: So I went to Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Freshman year, first day in the dorms, I hear this clackin Rhode Island accent coming out of a room. And there’s this girl in a cardigan sweater set and pearls, like Jackie Onassis drag. She’s like, “I’m from Cranston.” She was, like, so from Cranston. For four years, we called her Cranston. She would go home every night to have dinner with her parents.
J: Why not? It’s right there.
D: Her dad was this hot, older Italian man. They used to have Sunday dinner at their house.
J: I want to hear her last name off-line, because if I don’t know her, my grandfather knows her dad.
D: We still talk, and she’s amazing. But yeah, I called her Cranston. So I would go to Cranston and there was that mall there. It was Garden City.
J: The outdoor mall? Garden City, the plaza. I grew up in that place.
D: There was this place called “Razzies” or something?
J: Don’t do that to me. Paparazzis! I was going to have a full panic attack if I didn’t remember the name of that restaurant.
D: I was doing Cranston housewife drag in college with Cranston.
J: I mean, it’s fully that. It’s very much the Alex and Ani bracelets and all that.
D: I don’t even know if Alex and Ani was around then? I guess it was around then. But no, we were going to Banana Republic. Oh my God, I was obsessed.
J: I love the Rhode Island connection, I didn’t know that. My whole family is from Cranston, and the Princeton area. When I was 6 or 7, we moved to Vermont. So I grew up in Vermont, but my whole family’s in Rhode Island.
D: I love that, you get the best of both. Where in Vermont?
J: The woods, Shrewsbury. But it’s near Rutland and Killington. It’s west-central Vermont.
D: She’s skiing?
J: She’s not.
D: I went on one ski lift once and fell off.
J: Similarly, I did one year of ski lessons, maybe two. It was the kind of thing where it was so expensive. My family was like, “We’re going to have to scrape this together if you really want to do it.” I fell once, bit my tongue, and I was like, “I’m actually out.”
D: I’ll be après-ski for life, truly.
J: So no, I wasn’t a skier at all. We’re agreeing on that. You’re someone who’s always been cooking at home, loves cooking at home, loves food, that whole culture around it. What has your relationship to eating out and going out been?
D: I’ve always lived in cities. I lived in San Francisco. I lived in Portland, which is allegedly a city. And I’ve lived in New York. Going out to eat has always been part of what I love to do.
J: Yeah, totally.
D: As I’m a home cook, I love a restaurant. I think it’s such a beautiful experience. My sort of night out ends after going out to dinner. Sometimes it’s a movie or a play or something like that. But I do think that restaurants are just such a beautiful experience, and it’s a great way to eat food that I don’t regularly cook. So I love that. I have my world of food that I love to cook and then I love to experience all other food that I don’t make.
J: So are you avoiding an Italian restaurant when you go out?
D: Oh no. I’m also embracing that, too. I’m constantly at Via Carota.
J: Stupid questions, I literally knew that.
D: I just published what my favorite places to eat in Brooklyn are. So eating out is very much part of my world, and what I talk about.
J: Totally, that makes sense. How do I want to hear this question? Especially with the family relationship, is food a big part of how you socialize and connect with people?
D: Oh my God, absolutely. I grew up being so pouty and annoyed that we would go to the same restaurant when we went out. That we knew everyone there, that they knew us.
J: Where did you grow up?
D: I grew up in Waterbury, Conn. So right off 84.
J: Honestly, it’s a similar vibe to Cranston.
D: So we had two or three restaurants, like Pizza Castle or Ninos. I was like, “Why are we only eating here?” But now it’s like, oh, I’m that girl who has three restaurants. I know everyone there. I walk up and we hug and kiss, and they know where I want to sit. I’m that, and I’m doing what my grandfather and my dad did. It’s based on relationships. I love getting to know people. I love knowing what’s on the menu. It’s redundant, but it’s also comforting. That’s what home cooking is, too, right? It can be redundant, but it’s also just really comfortable. I do go out to places I’ve never been, and I love that experience. But if I really just want to tuck in somewhere, I go to my places.
J: I have the same thing. I’m starting to really develop that relationship with some of my restaurants, because they think with the pandemic, we took this break. I worked in restaurants for 10 years, and now I don’t, which is really fundamentally changing my relationships to restaurants in a way I wasn’t really prepared for. My home-based restaurant used to be the ones I f*cking worked at. You know what I mean? And now it’s not. My boyfriend had been out of town for two and a half weeks and I was just feeling weird. To make myself feel better, I walked to one of the restaurants I feel safe in and just had dinner alone at the bar.
D: People don’t know this, but we live on the same street.
J: We live on the same street. I walked far, though.
D: Where did you go?
D: That’s a good walk. You got your steps there.
J: I got my steps in, it’s a gorgeous walk. I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m developing an emotional codependency on Walter’s.
D: You should, Walter’s is great. I talk about this a lot with my boyfriend, who’s been working at the same restaurant for five or six years. It’s a different experience.
J: We can leave it if you want, but I’m just curious, where does he work?
D: He works at Buttermilk Channel.
J: I’ve been meaning to go there. OK.
D: In high school or maybe college, speaking of drag, I applied every summer to work at Chili’s. I just wanted to be that waitress who f*cking bumps you over and you’re in your booth, sits down with you and fundamentally changes your order because she thinks she knows better than you do. That was the drag I wanted to do. I grew up watching “Alice” reruns, with Alice and her diner, being sassy and refilling coffee. I also grew up going to diners. In high school, I went out with my uncles. We would go to the diner and then go to a movie every Friday. That was what I did. I love knowing it was the same waitress every Friday night. There’s just that repetition.
J: For you, it sounds like they’re literally inextricable. The relationships of the people surrounding the food is intrinsic.
D: Absolutely. And at some of the places, the food isn’t the best food in the world. But it’s my food.
J: I feel the same way. It’s why I’m very dubious of foodie culture on Instagram, where people are going to a different place every night, and they’re really documenting and being hypercritical. You’re really missing a huge point of restaurants in a way that’s really upsetting to me. Part of it is knowing your f*cking waitress’s name, and coming more than once, and enjoying the room and having a relationship with it.
D: But it’s also this idea of like, “Oh, you went here, you need to go here.” I’m so lucky, I have so many. I get so many DMs and so many people that love what I’m doing and where I’m going. But when I travel, I get a lot of messages. I went to Tartine when I was in San Francisco, which is the place I lived in my 20s. I went there every weekend. Did six more bakeries open up in San Francisco that also have croissants that I haven’t heard of? Yes, but I still want to go to Tartine. So it’s like, oh, you liked Tartine? Have you tried this or that? That’s not what this is about. It’s not about going to the newest or the best of the greatest, it’s about going to the place that owns my heart. I want to kill myself for saying it. But there’s no memory there.
J: 100 percent. Because there’s something so capitalist about this idea of finding the best, trying them all, doing the research. If you need to do that, fine. I went to college in Burlington.
D: Oh my God, a dream.
J: Don’t even get me started, it’s the best college town you could possibly go to.
D: The Hallmark holiday movie that we’re going to film there.
J: Don’t get me wrong, do I ever want to go back there in the winter? Literally never. You’ll never see me in the winter there again. But what I was going to say is, when I went back there, someone was like, this new amazing restaurant opened. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen. There’s seven restaurants there where it’s not just about the food. It’s about the memories. It’s like hugging an old friend, you can’t overstate the value of that. It’s so important, especially with this social media culture of like, “I need the next thing to post and the next thing to show.”
D: Food is one of many things that people love to invalidate your experience with.
J: Damn, that’s so real.
D: It’s so crazy to me. What I have tried to do with any authority that I may or may not have is, tell people that it doesn’t matter what brand or ingredient you’re using; fresh pasta, box pasta. Pasta is flour and water. Food insecurity and accessibility is such a problem in the country. We’re really going to start shaming people for having DOP Parmesan. Are you eating it? And do you like it? Those are my two filters.
J: Because it’s also like, no one’s ever going to get in in the way you’re expecting them to, if you’re telling them they have to do it perfectly to your standards on the first try.
D: I don’t even have standards. I just want people to be like, “That was delicious, I loved it.” I do not care what broth you use. Did you like it? Great. Cool, I’m so happy. I don’t care. And I’m giving you recipes with Cool Whip and Jell-O packets.
J: That’s really special, though.
D: This makes me happy. My Aunt Jessie’s ambrosia is, if you think about it objectively, it’s like what the f*ck? But I’m like, It’s delicious. And did I eat the entire bowl every Easter when I was 6? Yes. Do I still do that? Absolutely. When I went to ask Bimpy how he makes it, he was like, “Oh yeah, I drink the juice from the canned fruit after I strain it for the ambrosia.” That is the energy of 99. Go for it, you’ve lived forever from that canned fruit juice.
J: You’re reminding me, and I’ve never made this connection, but last night someone was sending me TikToks of this woman. Are you on TikTok at all?
J: It’s fine. Honestly, it’s healthy. It’s literally rotting my brain. Don’t get on it. There’s this woman on TikTok whose whole bit is that she cooks these recipes from this Midwestern cookbook that are all a ton of mayonnaise and whatever. It’s very much making fun of the Midwestern thing. But then I think about what my New England family recipes are, and it’s like packaged kielbasa and canned cranberry sauce in a crock pot for two hours. Would I kill you right now to eat it? Probably. We have this like, coleslaw that is literally made from ramen packets.
D: It’s also beautiful. My friend is doing an Instagram called Unboxing Betty, and she has this box of Betty Crocker recipes. She’s making them and showing how Betty photographed it versus how she’s making them. Every single piece of it, down to the typeface on the recipe card. I’m in love.
J: As a culture, yes we need to be thinking more about where our food comes from, but don’t devalue the heart around food and the memories and that culture around it.
D: Totally, and it’s the high and low. I’m eating at Via Carota, but I’m also eating whatever pasta I have in the cabinet with butter and salt and pepper. That’s great, too.
J: I’m curious, with that relationship to food in mind, have you found it hard at all feeling like you need to constantly churn out new recipes? The volume that is required of being a content creator?
D: I’m really lucky. A lot of creators, for really good reasons, have monetized their recipes. By that they say, “OK, every week I’m going to give you a recipe and you’re going to subscribe.” So every week I owe you a recipe. I’m really lucky for a lot of reasons. I just started putting all my recipes out there for free during the pandemic, as a way to help people in whatever way I could. So it felt really wrong for me to then start, at some point, putting a paywall behind them. So that has prevented me from doing it, just because I owe a lot to the people who found me as a source of help during a pandemic. I’m also really lucky that no one is sitting around waiting for me to put out a new recipe. That keeps me sane. The first time ever wrote a recipe for someone else to truly use was March 15, 2020.
J: Because you just knew what to do.
D: I’m not a food writer. I haven’t been a food editor. I didn’t work at Bon Appétit for 14 years. It takes me a while. I’m like a turtle writing recipes — which I love to do — but I need to do it on my own terms. And that’s great. And I have 100 recipes on my website, so I have a lot of stuff that I can constantly be talking about. So I don’t have to always be turning out new recipes. When I do, it’s because I’m ready. This is a joyful moment and there hasn’t been any pressure. The other thing I just want to say, which I think is really important for people to realize as a creator, is that you can follow me and get everything that I put out there for free. I only charge people for my merch launch, and the majority of it goes to charity and some stuff I’ve started doing for profit, which is awesome. I was doing classes for a little while, which I had to stop. When I put a new recipe out now, sometimes it’s sponsored by a brand, which is amazing because then people aren’t paying. And brands want to be part of the world I’ve created. So sponsored content, in that way, is really beautiful because I get to work with brands that I love. I made a wish list of brands at one point, and now I’m working with most of them. It’s crazy. So if you see sponsored content, like it and comment. I just don’t know how that’s not obvious, and I don’t feel shameless saying it.
J: You shouldn’t. You absolutely shouldn’t.
D: That’s how I get to keep giving you stuff, if you like it and if you want it, for free. I think that that’s something that can’t be said enough. I’m glad to be someone who says it.
J: I think it does tie in to restaurants and bars as well. In hospitality, and in the food and wine world, so much of it comes from the love of it, and the care. There’s this notion that whenever it becomes transparent, that it’s also a business or that it has to involve money. People are like, “Oh, then it’s inauthentic.” Like if a restaurant raises their prices, or when restaurants started to include hospitality in their thing. Babe, we can put all the heart into it as far as we want, but we do need to pay rent.
D: That’s an opportunity for you to make a decision. You as a human, get to say, “Oh, this restaurant said that. So I’m going to keep supporting it because I understand it, or, I’m going to stop. We don’t need to hear anything in between.” My merch is all sales final. The reason why my merch is all sales final, is because that’s the only way that I can run the business. I don’t know how to do merch, but I’m learning. So it has to be all sales final. When you get to my site and you read all sales final, you decide. You say, I will buy it from here or I won’t. That’s a decision I’m making. We’re not having a conversation about it.
J: That energy, I think, is pandemic-born. There’s this really great bar that opened up sort of in our neighborhood on Rialto Grande. If you live in the area, check it out, it’s a really great bar. I don’t know if they’re still doing this, but when they first opened, they had very competitive prices. It’s a very affordable bar, especially for the area. But the menu has, I’m going to say, 10 cocktails on it, a couple of beers, a couple of wines. It says on the menu there are no cocktails available other than these cocktails, and there’s no off-menu ordering. We got there, and one of my friends was like, “What the f*ck is this?” And I was like, “This is the pandemic. This bar opened during the pandemic, and you need to understand it’s a business. They can buy exact specs to this menu and also have a full bar and also have stuff in case one person orders a Gimlet. And they were like, “Oh.” It’s this acknowledgment now, where we used to have to do this drag of pretending weren’t a business to come across as a business.
D: We can do the customer’s always right. We can do whatever you need.
J: All that actually does, in the end, is it keeps small businesses down. It keeps elite people in power, people who have rich parents, or whatever.
D: It also allows businesses who have the ability to just lose some money constantly, but they’re making so much more because of the volume and the scale is huge, to exist. For people who run a small business, every little thing either makes or breaks it.
D: It’s also about f*cking boundaries, which I’m obsessed with. For a restaurant to tell me what they do and what they don’t do, it allows me to make a decision. Which I love. It’s like going to the same restaurant every day, I know what I’m getting. That’s a boundary thing. I know what to expect. And that really gives me so much peace.
J: Especially when you’re on the other side of it, working in a restaurant. I’ve worked in the restaurants that have zero boundaries, and I’ve worked with the restaurants that have really firm boundaries. The restaurants that have firm boundaries, it’s not only better for the people working there and for the business in terms of money, it’s actually a better experience for the customers overall. When restaurants don’t have boundaries, do you know how many times I’ve taken an order where someone has modified a dish to the point where they’re like, “I don’t like this?” And it’s like, “Yeah, you designed your own pasta in a restaurant.” Now it’s a f*cking bad because you took the butter out, you added chili flakes, and asked us to cast a spell on it. And it tastes like ass.
D: Someone can take my recipe, people do, and that’s fine. And I’m happy. If my recipe allows you to get into the kitchen and cook, but I give you a recipe for meatloaf and you make a cake, I’m just glad you’re in the kitchen and cooking. That’s a different thing. But if you’re walking into my kitchen, you’re in my house, I’m clear with you what you’re getting.
J: Obviously, allergies are different. But outside of that, it’s just understanding that the boundaries are really healthy, and I think it does make it a better experience.
D: I love it. I talk about my own personal boundaries as a person on the internet who has an audience.
J: Don’t get me started.
D: People thank me all the time. I get way more “thank yous” for saying this than people telling me I’m an asshole. Way more.
J: Totally. Are you talking more about people DM-ing you or wanting to talk about things?
D: I’m putting out the information I give you, and at a certain point, you need to sort of take it and carry the conversation.
J: Questions about recipes and stuff.
D: Certain things. I tell people that I, at a certain point, have to stop so I can go and make more content.
J: Totally. That never occurred to me because, obviously, I’m not putting out recipes. The fact that people can just ask questions and add nauseam, you do have to set a boundary. Because that could get endless.
D: I am happy to take all the questions in. But I do sometimes put blanket answers on my stories. I used to be like, “This is the answer, or I don’t have that content, but here’s someone else who does.” Not having an answer is an incredible way to shout out someone who does. I love doing that. And I also love telling people, “You’re not talking about diet or food in my stories. You’re not going to tell me that my food is unhealthy.” I say things like that, and people think of me because we’re just not doing that. That’s a way for me to say I’m building a community that has boundaries and this is one of them. So you can either be like, “Great, I will follow that” or you can unfollow.
J: Exactly. Because there are so many options. You don’t drink, so your page has no alcohol on it. If someone wants that versus a page that’s more alcohol-focused. I’m using alcohol as an example because you’d mentioned it earlier, and also this is a drinking podcast.
D: Well, I do have a famous vodka sauce. Well, I shouldn’t say famous.
J: No, I’ve made it, it’s good. Rather someone being like, “You should talk about wine,” and you don’t drink, go follow someone that does talk about wine.
D: Also, you can stay here, too. Just don’t expect wine for me. It comes from a place of maturity and calmness.
J: I’ve said this multiple times. I wouldn’t describe us as famous, but people who get a lot of attention on the internet or get a lot of attention in the public eye at a young age, I don’t understand how it doesn’t fully microwave their brains.
D: Well, it does.
J: It would microwave my brain.
D: I’m lucky that I got this light on me at 38, and I’m almost 40 now. Like I always say, if this attention had found me at 25, 30, or 35, it would be a different show. People would not love it as much.
J: Because you know who you are more.
D: I’ve gone through a lot of therapy. I know who I am. I’ve shed a lot of issues I’ve had. And we need to also give everyone else the grace to do that, too. But it just would not be as fun.
J: I totally agree. The gift of that is huge. It’s truly massive. In growing this community of — I don’t want to say followers because it’s not a cult — what has surprised you?
D: Can I tell you something that happened that I’m obsessed with?
J: Oh my God, tell me anything.
D: Sometimes people, instead of responding to their friend who has forwarded my story to talk sh*t about me, respond to me.
J: This has happened to me.
D: So some gay was like, “The way he refers to them as followers and not humans.” And I was like, “Oh my God, the gays are talking sh*t about me.” I’ve made it now.”
J: The one that I’ve gotten that gives me the most anxiety is, have you gotten the Instagram notification that’s like, “Someone has deleted a message they sent you?” And then you can see that someone did that, but deleted the message. I’ve gotten it a couple of times and been like, “What did they say?”
D: I want to know. Let me in on all this.
J: I would rather you call me like an annoying f*ck, and I know that, than you delete it. Well, now I never get to know.
D: But also, I know I’m annoying. You don’t have to tell me, but also great, I’m glad we’re in agreement. So that just goes back to like followers. And I wrote back and I was like, “Listen, they’re obviously humans. But what if some of my followers are aliens?”.
J: Also, they do follow you. They are your followers.
D: Maybe in a year or six months or tomorrow, I’ll realize, “Wow, that’s a really sh*tty thing to say.”
J: I don’t think it is. What are they, fans? That sounds more presumptuous to me.
D: My community? Maybe I do say that sometimes, I don’t know. But if you follow me, and you know who I am and you’re not some person who’s just looking at one thing I said in a silo and judging me, I think you know that I’m not being an asshole by calling people “followers.”
J: The relationship to you is that they follow you on Instagram, so I literally don’t know what other noun you use to describe them.
D: You know what’s a great way for me to move on from you just being a follower? DM me, say hello, let’s have a conversation. Do you know how many regular conversations I have with people who follow me? I know their name, I know what they’re like. I’m in so many people’s worlds and it’s amazing.
J: Which is a gift.
D: That’s awesome. Let’s start like there, instead of you critiquing me for calling the people who follow me followers.
J: So let’s probably call them followers and ask the question like, what has surprised you about this journey over the past two years?
D: I think what surprised me is that people were like, “Oh, you’re just being you, and I get that and I want in.” None of this was strategic. It just happened. I was just doing my thing. On March 13, I started seven days a week storying. By April 13, people were like, “We want Grossy merch.” That’s less than a month. Actually, I launched my merch. I was like, “Oh, this is a brand.”.
J: It’s also just funny to me, when you picture an Instagram username, I don’t think you were thinking of what your entire business and brand name would be.
D: My username is kind of hysterical. But in certain places, it’s hell. I’m going with it, because the whole point is, it should be fun and ridiculous. I don’t want it to be like anything other than something dumb and funny and silly. It just de-stigmatizes the seriousness around food and all other things. I just love that people get it and they connect. The things that I’m most jazzed about, they’re most jazzed about. I’m not like, “Oh, I have to do recipes for tailgating for football.”.
J: Right, because you don’t do that.
D: If I posted that, people would be like, “What the f*ck is wrong with you?” They’re just gagged for the stuff that I’m gagged for. And that’s awesome.
J: Totally. I think it’s important, because in spaces where people can get so focused on strategy, especially with personality and stuff, it becomes so inauthentic. The second you get focused on that, it becomes really inauthentic.
D: And I love that brands who want to work with me want me to do my thing. I don’t love when they’re like, “Can Bimpy be in our sponsored post.” That’s psychotic, but they’re like, “We want you to give us Grossy. We don’t want you to do anything else.” And I love that, because they get what I’m doing and they see it. I’m not a tough read.
J: No. What have you become, obviously in terms of “cooking for you and what you love?” As you build your platform, what about the food world have been things that have become really important to you to communicate out?
D: Like we said, de-stigmatizing the financial and fanciness of food. And also the perfection of it. Like I said, most of what I am making has really simple ingredients that are widely available at multiple places. So food insecurity and food access, I think, are really huge. I avoid things that have really intense ingredients that are just going to be unavailable. If I am developing a recipe and traditionally it would use Calvados, we’re not putting that in my recipe. What can we use as a replacement? So I’m trying to make it as accessible and as simple as possible.
J: Which is impressive, because it’s so easy. Even as someone who grew up in a rural area, it’s so easy living in New York to forget that this isn’t available to f*cking Shaw’s.
D: Totally, it’s not. There are a few things here and there, I’m not saying it’s across the board. But there are some things like that. And I also think that like everyone wants to know the background in the story and the connection to my life as part of the recipes. So I do it very short. I don’t do it like the traditional food blogger.
J: Don’t call it traditional, because it needs to go away. It’s evil.
D: I don’t even feel like I’m a blogger, even though I’m fully a blogger girl. I don’t feel like I am.
J: I would have never called you a blogger.
D: I know, but people do. And I’m like, “Am I?” OK, I guess I am. But I don’t use that word. It doesn’t matter. Words are words. It doesn’t matter. I’m giving you what I’m giving you.
J: If you were a blogger, your followers would be called readers. So that’s how you know.
D: I love when people DM me like, “Longtime listener, first-time caller.” Oh, that’s so good. No, but the story and the connectivity. The most emotional I’ve gotten recently, I’ve gotten really emotional over the past 18 months, but holiday cookie season is big for me. It’s huge, huge, huge. Last year, I shared a lot of my family recipes and someone wrote to me and said, “Grossy, I just want you to know that my grandmother went to the grave with her peanut butter blossom recipe. So now your recipe is grandmother’s recipe.” I was like, “Bye.” If there’s anything I want to encapsulate what I’m doing, it’s that. I’m not saying I want people to make my recipes their grandma’s recipes.
J: Throw your f*cking grandma out and get Grossy Pelosi recipes.
D: My followers — sorry — call me Nana Grossy.
J: Oh my God, that’s so cute.
D: Or when I’m doing Portuguese food, it’s Tía Grossy. It’s insane, but it makes total sense to me. But I was like, “That’s so beautiful.”.
J: That’s objectively gorgeous.
D: If I can help you bring back your grandmother’s food in any way, because you don’t have the recipe, 100 percent. And that’s what I’m doing behind the scenes, I’m calling my aunt, my grandma, my grandfather, my dad. I call them the Carolines of Maryland. Aunt Carolyn, Cousin Marilyn, I’m calling everyone, getting all their sh*t, and I’m making my own family recipe.
J: I’m curious, is everyone down? Or is anyone like, “No, it’s my f*cking recipe.” Like the grandma who took her peanut butter cookie to the grave.
D: I don’t have a lot of those people in my family. My sister’s best friend from high school, Danielle, her mother, Frankie, bakes these anginetti Italian cookies.
J: I love anginettis.
D: Yeah, so my recipe is good, but there’s a million recipes.
J: Can you text when you make them, and I’ll come over?
D: Exactly. I made them a couple of weeks ago, I wish I’d known. But I’ll make them again. I’m inviting you to my cookie party. I’m freaking out about whether or not it’s going to happen. But I’m inviting people, and then if I have to cancel.
J: I’m boosted.
D: But Danielle goes, “Oh, my mother last year won the Anginettis Awards in New Haven.” I was like, “I need to go to the Anginettis Awards.” And I was like, “Well, can I have a recipe? I want to see it.” And she goes, “Oh no, no, no. I haven’t even seen her recipe.” If there’s infighting about recipes in the family, sign me the f*ck up. What better thing to fight about?
J: My stepfather is from a large Italian family, and they all have a different pasta visual recipe. Everyone swears it’s the best, and they don’t f*ck around with it.
D: Because it is the best. Because they like it the most, and that’s all that f*cking matters. I will tell you, when I write a book, I have all my mom’s “Mother’s Club Fundraiser” cookbooks. I grew up in an Italian-American, Irish-American, Catholic upbringing. We have these books and there are, like, six lasagna recipes. They’re all by Maria. They’ve all made the book, and they’re all off by one-quarter of an inch. But you’re not going to tell any of the six Marias that their lasagna recipe didn’t make the book.
J: Wait, you’re talking about the spiral bounds? Oh my god, I’m dying.
D: By the way, my entire visual center of my brand is based on those books. That’s like my guiding light. If you ever want to come over and look at my collection, it’s like my favorite thing to do.
J: This sounds like heaven.
D: Come over, I have to have you over anyways.
J: For the listeners, the first Dan and I met was because we ran into each other on the street once. That was the first time.
D: No, but we actually met on Scruff.
J: We had chatted on a gay app years ago.
D: You worked at Rosemary’s and you were the bartender, and I would come over because I’m a lady who likes to lunch. You were working the day shift. And we were eyeing each other, but we never talked.
J: We never talked.
D: Then we more recently. I had to give that backstory.
J: Yes, we had talked once on a dating app. We had talked once, when I was your server at Rosemary’s. The first time we met in a truly authentic, non-internet gateway, was walking down the street we lived on in Brooklyn. And we’re like, “Oh my God, our neighbors.” A few weeks later, my boyfriend made Clair Saffitz’s pecan sticky buns and posted a picture. I got a DM from Dan two minutes after I posted the photo of them being like, “Can I come over and have one?” I was like, “Yeah, sure, come over.”.
D: Because if there’s one thing I know about making a recipe just for the pleasure of making it, is you don’t know what to do with the f*cking food.
J: Well, that’s the problem. It was genius.
D: Let me relieve you from that, and vice versa.
J: We gave you like four and were like, please take these.
D: Absolutely. And they were so good.
J: So you’re talking about the spiral notebook?
D: Yeah. So that energy of like “my recipe is the best,” and there’s everyone else who makes the same thing, is incredible. That’s what I love talking about. I love writing about it. I love creating recipes. My Italian cooking our anginetti recipe, I give you the option to go lemon. I give you the option to go anise. I give you the option to go vanilla.
J: Of those three, I have a pref. Do you have a pref?
D: I’m an almond-vanilla mix. I do a mix of almond-vanilla. I’m not lemon. Are you lemon? Frankie won the Anginetti Awards with her lemon recipe, which apparently is very intense lemon.
J: So I would eat any of them. It’s not like any of them are bad. I think all anginettes are good. Almond-vanilla sounds like a dream to me, but I’m a lemon girl. I’m very lemon.
D: I’m like almond-vanilla. I also love the intense anise flavor. I do not love lemon, sorry.
J: Across the board, or just in an anginette?
D: Across the board.
J: Oh, OK, so I’m very pro-lemon. If I want anise in an Italian thing, I want it in a pizzelles.
D: Oh, I make those, too. Do you have a pizzelle maker?
D: You can borrow mine.
D: I say in my pizzelle recipe, “If you don’t have a pizzelle, open up the phone book, find someone with the name Maria, call them and say, ‘Maria, I want to make local Maria merch.'” I have all my local Maria’s in my DM’s, I’m talking to them, they’re testing my recipes. I’m like, “Maria, tell me how you make your pizzelles.”.
J: That’s so funny.
D: I have a pizzelle maker. I actually have two, because I have my mom’s, because I thought I lost mine. It’s insane.
J: I love it. I’m obsessed with anise pizzelles.
D: Anise pizzelles are the only way to do it. But I also give people options, because everyone needs to recreate their own personal recipe. I don’t want to exclude anyone. But yes, team anise. We should make team anise shirts.
J: Oh, I like that. I’m down.
D: Because we’re gay.
J: I haven’t had a pizzelle in so long.
D: Oh, I’m going to make some. They’re the best, they’re so easy. Come over, we’ll have dinner, and then we’ll make pizzelles after.
J: Oh my God, that sounds so fun.
D: We can eat them hot.
J: I’ve also never had a hot pizzelle in all my life.
D: You haven’t?
J: To me, pizzelles are very at the deli counter, in the clear plastic bag with the tie off.
D: We’re making them fresh. I have a double pizzelle maker, so we make two at once. I love when the batter oozes and you get the extra pieces at the end and you pick them off while you’re making them.
J: My high job was as a Ben and Jerry’s scooper, so that’s me, making the waffle cones, scooping around, and eating the squares.
D: I worked at an ice cream shop and I got fired two weeks later. Do you want to know why I got fired from an ice cream shop?
J: Because you were caught eating the waffle cones?
D: No, they told me I had weak wrists. They’re like, “You can’t scoop.”.
J: That’s a Title IX offense, I’m sorry.
D: I literally was like, “That’s homophobic.” I’m not out of the closet, but that’s homophobic.
J: You got fired for having weak wrists. So were you bad at scooping the ice cream?
D: I couldn’t tell you, Who knows? Is there a standard for that?
J: That is so funny.
D: I think they just hated me. I was giving dyed hair, I was giving color. I was giving you very in-the-closet gay. I was at the seams of coming out.
J: But that’s what an ice cream shop is for. Ice cream shops are employees who are about to come out of the closet. Do you understand that people?
D: You know Big Gay Ice Cream, which we love, but it takes forever. Where is the lesbian ice cream shop at? You would be in and out in 15 f*cking seconds.
J: When I first was applying for bartending jobs they would ask if I had experience. I was an ice cream bar worker for two years, and it’s the same skill set. Cocktails and sundaes, it’s the same. It’s literally the same job. I’m not joking.
D: You’re doing wrist exercises?
J: Yeah, no, for sure.
D: I also have weak ankles. If there’s a level shift in the ground, I will roll over it. Anyways, sorry. So it’s all related.
J: But that is what ice cream shops were literally made for. That’s so fucked up.
D: I know, and then they wouldn’t hire me at Chili’s. I also applied to the Garden Center at Home Depot. They would never hire me. I was just meant to stay at home with my mom.
J: When you were a creative director, was that food-related at all?
D: No, it was retail. I worked for Ann Taylor brands. I worked for the Gap in San Francisco. All your mom’s favorite mall stores, I worked for, which I loved. As we are talking about accessibility, I can help a woman feel good from, we would say, dust to dinner or work two weekends. I want her to feel good and I don’t want her to feel like she has to wear whatever the New York fashion gays are wearing. Do you know how many girls would be like, “What do you do?” I’d tell them I’m a creative director at Ann Taylor and Loft. They’d be like, “I wear Loft. It saves me everyday.” They’re whispering in my ear that they wear Loft. Of course, they have affordable bottoms to go to your desk jobs. So I loved that.
J: I love the anti-elitism that runs through your entire brand.
D: That is, hopefully, the goal.
J: I feel the same way. People think they’re achieving things with elitism, especially in things that have personal expression in them like clothes, food, and where you go out. What you’re trying to convey, the elitism of wanting better for yourself, is actually so damaging and so f*cked up. It is so revolting to me because it’s like, your mom wearing Loft and feeling good in Loft does not affect you wearing your ugly ass sweatshirt.
D: It’s the same thing with my food stuff. But also, I do own Gucci slides. I do have moments where I’m like, I spent too much money on that. But I wear them with my Uniqlo, it’s the highs and lows. It’s not about one or the other. It’s just understanding that neither matters in a larger scope. Also, everything should be totally for you. Because if you f*cking love your Gucci slides, it’s worth spending $1,500 on it, or whatever it was. I spent way too much money this year on an Alexander McQueen bomber jacket that makes me happy. Have I worn it yet? No, because it’s too nice.
D: But also, you’re going to sweat your balls off. If I wore that, I would probably sweat too much. You know, we’re big sweaty boys. It’s become so important to me to talk about that. I find myself talking about it a lot more. I’ll post a photo of something and people will DM me like, “So fancy.” That hurts. It hurts when you say that, because it may be fancy, but I realize at that moment I don’t want to be inaccessible, it’s just not the story I want to be telling. And of course, because we’re humans, sometimes my story is that. And that’s OK. It’s a reminder to myself to be like, “OK, that’s not the best foot forward.”
J: If your brand is the person that’s like “If you don’t get the stamped Parmesan wheel, it’s not real Parmesan.” If that’s your brand, fine.
D: I just did a whole event with Grana Padano, and we talked about how it’s made. And I’m like, that’s really beautiful, but it’s also not the only option. It’s just not. There are so many other ways you can have grated cheese.
J: I think you should be really proud that that is at the core of your brand, because I would say that is not what is happening with most people. It’s really needed. And it’s really important, because I think it’s a way in. Some people are maybe going to be like, “Wait, I’m falling in love with Parmesan cheese.” Wait, now I want to try the “real one.” But a lot of people are like, “You know, this one’s fine and both are OK.”
D: All spectrums on the wheel of Parmesan are totally fine.
J: I haven’t had a bad one.
D: Yeah, exactly. It’s cheese, give me it all.
J: I grew up with shaker Parm.
D: My dad still has it in the refrigerator.
J: And sometimes that’s what you want.
D: Absolutely. I have 55,000 bottles of hot sauce in our house, and it’s all levels. I am very lucky, because I work really hard to have a very engaged group of people who follow me who are human beings. People send me stuff to open and talk about. Some of the stuff’s really fancy and some of it’s not, and it’s great to be able to be seen as someone who can show it all.
J: Totally. Well, I think you should be really proud of what you’ve done. And I’m very excited to have cookies with you very soon.
J: Thank you so much for doing the show. It’s been so fun. If people want to become a human who follows you, where can they find you?
D: Thank you for asking. They can find me at @GrossyPelosi on Instagram. They can also find me on Pinterest, if you’re a Pinterest girl, which we love. I also have a website which has all my recipes and so much more, which is danpelosi.com.
J: Get yourself a sweatshirt.
D: Yes, please. All sales final.
J: All sales final.
D: Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.